As I sit at my computer, I dread the moment when I have to get up. A couple of days ago was leg day; a day feared by many gym goers that often results in the day being missed. I know I need to get up at some stage but there is a lot of online content that is allowing me to procrastinate. In one video, they showed off their laser light therapy pod at a MMA institute; a machine that uses lasers “to bring blood to the surface”, aiding the body in the removal of metabolic waste through vasodilation and vasoconstriction. This idea tickled my curiosity and even made me a little skeptical. How can light help rid me of leg pain?
Photo-therapy or photobiomodulation is the therapy that uses light to cure disease. There are two ways this can be done; with the light alone (Low Level Laser Therapy or LLLT) or the combination of the light with a photosensitive dye (Photo-Dynamic Therapy or PDT). The combination is often used to kill things and since I am just wanting to get rid of the pain, I’ll be focusing on LLLT that aims at stimulation. LLLT seems to be used for an array of different things from wounds, fractures, hair loss and spinal cord injuries. Not only does it speed up the process of healing but it also increases circulation, decreases inflammation and minimise pain. The light used includes red and near infrared wave lengths (600+ nm) which acts beneficially on the body on a cellular and molecular level. The reason why low levels of light is used is because using high levels negatively affects the body instead of aiding in healing.
The photons (light particles) are absorbed by the mitochondria (power stations of cells) which stimulates the production of Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP (main energy source of the body). While doing so, it promotes the beneficial properties of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and increases the activity of transcription factors which, in-turn, increases the number of gene products being made (proteins, etc). Essentially, the LLLT works by stimulating many molecular and cellular pathways within the cells that aid in the survival of the cell instead of its destruction and replacing. Not quite like what was said in the video but since it does promote proper blood flow, I’ll let it pass. This is good as a general idea for how it works but what about my sore legs?
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can occur for a number of reasons but I know for a fact that mine had to do with my new, harder leg routine. Changing the requirements of my leg muscles resulted in microscopic tearing of my muscle fibres leading to me feeling stiff and sore. The pain is often associated with the build up of lactic acid in the muscle fibres but this is rarely the case. Though it can’t be treated, recovery can be sped up with massage, foam rollers, ice packs, anti-inflammatory drugs and LLLT. In two 2006 papers, rats muscle fatigue was simulated in rats by electrical stimulation and loaded activity on a treadmill. LLLT resulted in reduced fatigue, increased enzymatic activity and a decrease in muscle damage.
Though described by the MMA professionals as healing on a systemic level (circulatory system), the main benefits of LLLT are due the effects that occur on a cellular and molecular level. You can’t completely eliminate your chance of experiencing DOMS but it is recommended that gradually changing your routine can minimise your chances of suffering. Now, if only my gym would invest in purchasing one of those laser therapy pods. I’d finally be able to stand up.